June 4, 2021
Today, Facebook officials announced that they would continue former president Trump’s suspension for at least two years from his February 7 suspension, when he continued to praise the mob in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. After two years, the company will reassess his ban, deciding “whether the risk to public safety has receded.” Facebook promised that it would begin holding political figures to common standards for hate speech, rather than giving them a pass on the grounds their actions are noteworthy. If, in their opinion, noteworthiness requires an exception, they will explain why.
In their announcement of new standards for the platform, Facebook seemed to accept that bad actors have used it to swing political events. It listed the tens of thousands of accounts it has banned, and promised to continue to stay on top of them, although it blamed the events of January 6 on “the insurrectionists and those who encouraged them.” The new policies are a new development in the world of social media, as a major platform tries to show politicians concerned about the spread of disinformation on the platform that it can police itself.
Former president Trump reacted angrily to this ongoing suspension. His campaign’s use of social media, especially Facebook, was instrumental in his 2016 win.
Now without access to Twitter, where he had tens of millions of followers (although not all were real), or Facebook, where he had millions, he is having trouble staying relevant. He tried to move his followers to a webpage where he posted his statements on current affairs, but this Wednesday his team abandoned the page after it failed to gain much of a following.
We learned today that a New York state special grand jury in Manhattan has heard testimony from Jeffrey McConney, a senior finance executive at the Trump Organization who has been with the company for 34 years. McConney cannot be charged for anything he reveals on the subject of his testimony, but neither can he refuse to answer questions. (Because he cannot incriminate himself, he cannot use the Fifth Amendment). He can, though, be prosecuted for perjury if he lies.
Rumblings suggest that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is hoping to flip Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer for the Trump Organization. Information from McConney could help that process.
Tomorrow night, the former president will address the North Carolina Republican Party, a lead-in to the old campaign-style rallies he plans to start holding next month in Ohio, Alabama, and Florida. Republican officials are begging him to talk about policy and the 2022 election, but he appears to be focused on his conviction that he won in 2020, believing that the so-called “audit” in Arizona and other states will prove he won. He has been telling people he will be “reinstated” in August.
Having tied the party tightly to the former president because of his ability to reach and rile up voters, Republican leaders now have to deal with the fact that he no longer can reach them effectively, and that his own troubles are, at the very least, distracting.